Choosing/Losing Smith Family
This post today is about the ties that you make at Smith. Not that you can’t make strong ties elsewhere, but there is something to be said for your college friends. Friendships forged in nighttime chats, daytime protests. Identity crises and academic triumphs. Here are excerpts from two beautiful posts about the families you choose, and the heartbreak that comes when you lose someone in that family.
My years at Smith College were the best of my life, to date. It was where I learned that sometimes it’s ok to make bad decisions. (I learned a lot of other things, too, don’t get me wrong.) More than anything, though, I found a second family. The Smithies surrounding me were, from day one until this very moment, my support system. They are my source for adventure, advice, hugs, rubber ducks, tea, and love. (I know, gross.) They picked me up after I fell so many times. They still do. My Smithies are the first ones I want to call when I have good news or bad news or stupid news. They are the reason I started writing here. They are the family I chose.
One of those women, a brilliant and caring young woman, lost her battle with cancer this week. It has been a tough reality to face. Knowing that Kirby, someone so beautiful and kind, has lost to such an ugly disease…it steals the air from my lungs. I can’t pretend to understand. Kirby was a superhero walking undetected among us, making things right whenever she could. Hearing the news of her diagnosis this fall, I had to sit down. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Last week, when news of her declining health reached me, I sobbed. The unfairness of it all. And when I saw E’s name on the screen of my phone, I knew it was over.
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My heart leaped when I heard her voice on my answering machine. It was Judy, who we teased so in college for her youth: she was just 16 for most of our freshman year. Judy my roommate and bridesmaid from the days when young women had hair down to their elbows and dressed in gowns as flowing in gossamer as you’d see on a host of angels.
But glad as I was to hear her voice, I was that sad to learn why she called: Her mother was hospitalized near here and she had dropped everything back in Manhattan to come sit by her for her final weeks.
I took a lot of photos too and in the days following scanned them and saved them on my computer, where I go and look at them often.
I look at them very often, in fact, struck as I am by my good fortune in being near her during this passage; struck as I remain by the generosity of spirit that takes a mere friend from the old days and turns her into family.
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